Yahoo & MSN side with Chinese government, against their users

Oops, they did it again: Yahoo and MSN signed a blogging ‘self-discipline’ pact in China:

US Internet giants Yahoo and MSN confirmed Friday they had signed a code of conduct for their blogging operations in China that committed them to protecting the interests of the Chinese state.

So what exactly does that mean?

Yahoo, Microsoft’s MSN and other blog providers in China this week signed the “self-discipline” pact, under which they pledged to “safeguard state and public interests,” according to a statement from the China Internet Society. The pact “encourages” the Internet firms to register the real names, addresses and other personal details of the bloggers, and then keep this information. The firms also committed to delete any “illegal or bad messages”, according to a copy of the pact posted on the society’s website.

In other words, it helps put dissidents and journalists in jail for speaking out. Yahoo has a record of selling out their customers to the government, as Reporters Without Borders points out: Journalist Shi Tao was sentenced in 10 years in prison for “divulging state secrets abroad” after Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided China’s state security authorities with details that helped to identify and convict him.

Of course a company has to adhere to local laws where they are active. However, how unethical can a company be if they’re willing to just give up their users for voicing an opinion? Blogs were once thought of as having the potential to democratize.

Obviously, to Yahoo and MSN their profits are too important to let basic ethics get in their way. You want a blog? Sure, here you have it, but make sure just to share your lunch stories and nothing that might get people to think too much. Ugh.

By the way, Reporters Without Borders offers anonymous blogs to protect your identity while you get the word out. (More details in this older post of mine.)


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